Richard Beasley, author of Me and Rory MacBeath
Tell us about your latest creation:
“Me and Rory Macbeath” is a novel set in the 1970’s about the friendship between two boys (Jake and Rory) who meet at the start of the summer when they are both twelve. They have the kind of fun together that kids did in summer back in the 70’s. Rory has a very violent father though, and the childhood of both boys is ended abruptly by a terrible event that happens as a result of that violence. In the trial that follows, the female defence barrister is the kind of person I would like to be a member of my chambers now, although we would probably have to up the wine budget.
I was born in Sydney, grew up in Adelaide, and have lived in Sydney most of my adult life, or at least the part of my adult life that has involved being a lawyer/barrister. I have never lived more than 1 kilometre from Randwick Racecourse. My bank manager and my trustee can tell you why
When you were a kid, what did you want to become? An author?:
When I was a kid I wanted to be a test cricketer. That was in the 1970’s. I still want to be a test cricketer. It looks like I still have a chance. The Dream lives on.
What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:
Me and Rory Macbeath. It’s a better story than my first two books. And it has much less swearing.
Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:
I wrote my first novel when I was a “baby-barrister”. I had a ‘readers room’ on my floor, which was literally an old broom closet, about 1metre x 1 metre. It’s famous now for having had “Hell has Harbour Views” written in it, and for having the child of one of our floor members conceived in it. My second novel I wrote in my current room in chambers. It is a windowless room, with 1960’s wood panelling. It’s the sort of room that requires even my clients to take 3 Prozac tablets before walking inside. It’s not a creative space. I wrote “Me and Rory Macbeath” at home, in our study, with our dog at my feet. That was much nicer. She’s much better company than other barristers too, and gave me more incisive feedback on my first draft than they or my previous publisher did.
When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:
I love reading Carl Hiassen. He’s the funniest writer ever, and I really like crime books that don’t have police in them. For more serious reading, I’ve loved everything by Cormac McCarthy I’ve read over the last few years, and Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell books.
What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:
“The Catcher in the Rye”. My Year 10 English teacher recommended it. He started calling me “Holden” shortly afterwards. My mother still calls me Holden. And “The Great Gatsby”. It’s very hard for me not to order a custom made shirt every time I think about that book, which is daily.
If you were a literary character, who would you be?:
A male barrister who doesn’t want to be Atticus Finch hasn’t read “To Kill a Mockingbird”. I’d kind of like to be Winston Smith from 1984, because the world, its governments, and big corporations all make me feel like him sometimes. Obviously I want a different ending, with Winston leading some kind of overthrow of Big Brother.
Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:
I cook a lot. I am really good. I’ve watched all the celebrity chefs on TV. I am as good as them all, and tidier. I would win Masterchef easily if I went on it, but I don’t like “dorm” accomodation, and would miss my family.
What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:
Red meat. Red wine.
Who is your hero? Why?:
In Politics: Gough Whitlam. I like the huge size of his vision. I was only 11 when he was dismissed, but I thought it was dodgy even then. As someone who now has legal expertise, I now think it was illegal. I want Gough reinstated.
In Books: F Scott Fitzgerald. I learntThe Great Gatsby off by heart when I was 17. There will never be another book like that for me. I bored dozens of girls reciting it from when I was 18 until I was about 25. They all married men who strongly resemble Tom Buchanan for some reason.
Music: John Lennon. I just love his songs. I love his playfulness with words. I liked his attitude. I even like Yoko.
Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:
The survival of good bookshops is a key. That is one part of retail that I hope survives the online revolution and finds a way to thrive. I’m kind of optimistic though. My kids read a HELL of a lot more books than I did when I was in Primary School. So do their friends and classmates. So that make me hopeful.
Website URL: You don’t want a lawyer
Twitter URL: @richardcbeasley